How Ukraine’s XDar Vodka Is Exporting Bottles Around The World During A War
It’s the vodka to drink now to support the brave people of Ukraine.
Despite the war with Russia and the distillery’s location just a few hundred miles from the front lines, XDar Vodka––made from Ukrainian wheat and water––is still being distilled, bottled, and exported to 35 countries around the world, including the US. It’s the vodka you should be drinking now to support the brave people of Ukraine.
I sat down for a Zoom call with Andriy Kushnir, the Export Director for Bayadera Group, the Ukrainian company that produces and exports XDar Vodka. He and his family are currently staying in Western Ukraine, though XDar’s distillery––which only re-opened a few weeks ago––is much closer to the conflict, in the central Ukraine province of Cherkasy. Located at the widest point of the Dnipro River (nearly 5.6 miles wide in places) Kushnir says the area is the “most ecological” region of Ukraine, and local water is used in the making of their vodka.
“Before the war, we had over 4,000 employees,” says Kushnir. He says that roughly 1,000 of them are now displaced, either within Ukraine or in neighboring countries. And that around 500 of their employees have taken up arms to defend the country—including ex-military members of their staff. But Kushnir says that they have continued to pay the salaries of all their employees, whether they’re now refugees, volunteer soldiers, or still working on the bottling line. “98% of the workers on the production line are still there,” says Kushnir.
In a bitter irony, XDar––its name derived from “gift of grain” in Ukrainian––celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Before the war, XDar was shipped globally out of the Ukrainian Black Sea port city of Odesa, but now they’re forced to transport it by road or rail to the Romanian Black Sea port city of Constanta for overseas export to 35 countries worldwide, with the US being the largest market. After what they go through to get it to you, the least you can do is buy it.
Kushnir says that he’s been warmed by the broad support of Americans, and he even mentioned a certain American celebrity who just paid a visit to the town in which he’s currently living with his family. “Angelina Jolie just came to visit my town,” he says, “And she didn’t even have her bodyguards surrounding her.”
How To Drink Vodka Like A Ukrainian
I asked Kushnir how actual Ukrainians drink their vodka, and his response was as badass as you’d expect from the people standing up to Putin: “We drink a chilled shot before every meal,” he says. And in a time of war, I hope that includes breakfast. He also says that the Ukrainian equivalent of the classic (if now anachronistic) “Three Martini Lunch” for work meetings is a three-vodka-shot-lunch.
For chilling the vodka, he recommends keeping it in the fridge instead of the freezer. This is because the flavor is so good––reflecting the 100% Ukrainian wheat from which it’s distilled––that it doesn’t need to hide behind ice crystals.
Another unique way Ukrainians like to drink their vodka is by taking a shot, then smelling a piece of freshly baked bread as the chaser. I imagine the grain aroma in the bread brings out the grain aroma in the vodka. Regardless of the reason, it’s a ritual I’d like to try. So go bake some bread, chill some XDar Vodka, and then raise a glass to the people of Ukraine.
“A few years ago, we used the motto, ‘The vodka for the people who turn the world,” says Kushnir. It was like calling it the everyman’s vodka, or vodka for the essential workers. And right now, the world’s essential workers are the people of Ukraine. When I asked Kushnir what he’s most looking forward to, he replied with proud confidence that may have seemed crazy not long ago, but which has now become synonymous with the word, “Ukrainian.”
“We are looking forward to winning this war.”
XDar vodka is available to purchase now for just $16 per bottle.